The Current

Becoming Santa: Ottawa man carries on legacy of vintage red suit

"I'm following in the footsteps of these great Santas, these great people."
Michael Morin has inherited a vintage red suit that first belonged to Hamilton's best-known Santa, Jimmy Lomax. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
Listen18:59

Read Story Transcript
"It's almost like a magical coat."

That's how one of Ottawa's newest Santa describes the red vintage suit he inherited.

"I think the spirit of giving is just embedded in the fibres of the suit."

Meet Michael Morin, a lifelong public servant nearing retirement — and beginning a new role.

'Based on the little conversation we had on that front porch, he [Larry Lantz] basically chose me,' says Michael Morin. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)

This holiday season marks Morin's first outing as Santa, donning that vintage suit, completing the look with shiny black boots and his own — very real — long, white beard.

Two Santas: From Jimmy Lomax to Larry Lantz

Larry Lantz as Santa. Lantz died in 2013 and passed the suit on to Michael Morin. (Supplied)
He's got big boots to fill, in more ways than one. The outfit first belonged to Jimmy Lomax, Hamilton's best-known Santa, who was named to the Order of Canada for his decades-long work on Operation Santa Claus, a charity Lomax ran with his wife.

Lomax wore the suit for the last time in 2009 and died two years later.

When Lomax retired, the suit was passed on to Larry Lantz, who wore it until his death in 2013. Lantz co-founded a charity called Santa Canada, which helped terminally-ill children celebrate Christmas — year-round.

One of the last things he said is, 'I want you to keep the Jimmy Lomax suit and give it to Michael Morin when he's ready.'- Myke Hutchings

Morin first met Lantz at a party in the summer of 2013, according to Lantz's husband, Myke Hutchings.

"Larry was very quiet that night, and Michael tends to be a very quiet, very private individual too," said Hutchings.

"So they just sort of gravitated towards each other. I had a household filled with people, a household filled with big brash personalities, and Michael and Larry just sort of connected that night."

'It's really stunning," says Morin of the vintage suit. 'It's made of wool. It's lined with satin. It's trimmed in sheepskin. The hat that goes with it is trimmed in rabbit fur. I figure it's about 45-years-old.' (Kristin Nelson/CBC)

'He basically chose me'

As Lantz fought pancreatic cancer, Hutchings asked about his Santa paraphernalia.

"One of the last things he said is, 'I want you to keep the Jimmy Lomax suit and give it to Michael Morin when he's ready.'"

Morin says he found out about the suit about two years after Lantz died.

"Based on the little conversation we had on that front porch, he basically chose me."

As soon as I put it [Santa suit] on, I I feel their spirit- Michael Morin
A picture of young Morin sitting on Santa's lap. 'Christmas really holds a special place in my heart,' says Morin. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)

And now, Morin is ready.

"As soon as I put it [Santa suit] on, I I feel their spirit, their energy with me, and I believe that helps propel me into this. I feel them with me."

Michael Morin with Lyne Legaré, director of care at Presland Residence, a group home for adults with schizophrenia in Vanier. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
I'm following in the footsteps of these great Santas, these great people- Michael Morin

For Morin, becoming Santa makes Christmas even more special.

"I knew the suit belonged to Larry, but when I found out where it originally came from, I got really humbled by the whole thing, and to think that I'm following in the footsteps of these great Santas, these great people," he said.

"Yes, I do feel that I'm part of their legacy."


Photos: Morin's 'Santafication'

Morin starts the 'Santafication' process. 'My beard is still a little bit salt and pepper so it needs a bit of help to really look authentic. So I use theatrical hair paint and to whiten it.' (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
'These are my Santa boots and I actually have had these for about 10 years now. They're almost knee-high,' says Morin. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
'Any occasion is a great occasion to bring the Christmas spirit,' according to Morin. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
Morin shows the vintage belt he wears as part of his suit. (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
The bells are a recent addition to Morin's collection. 'I now have proper sleigh bells.' (Kristin Nelson/CBC)
'Christmas really holds a special place in my heart. It always has,' says Morin. 'I'm doing this now is ... even more special.' (Kristin Nelson/CBC)

The documentary Becoming Santa was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson with help from documentary editor Liz Hoath. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.